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Michael Bisping makes the most of his UFC title shot

Michael Bisping celebrates after defeating Luke Rockhold for the middleweight title at UFC 199.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)
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Michael Bisping had a little more than two weeks to prepare for his long-awaited first Ultimate Fighting Championship title shot.

Once the veteran contender received the UFC 199 chance to meet Luke Rockhold for the middleweight belt Saturday night at the Forum, Bisping said it didn’t matter if it was “two weeks, two days, two hours, two minutes,” as he kicked in the door of opportunity and stunningly knocked out Rockhold in the first round.

The 37-year-old Bisping (30-7) becomes the first fighter from England to wear a UFC belt.

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“I’ve always been a fighter, there’s nothing that I do better,” Bisping said afterward. “This is my dream, no one can take this away from me.”

Bisping and Rockhold (15-3) exchanged some uneventful punches and kicks before the 10-year UFC veteran unleashed a wild left-handed punch that caught Rockhold flush on the jaw, knocking him to the canvas.

Rockhold rose to exchange, only to absorb an over-the-top left to the head that knocked him down again, straight back to the octagon cage. There, Bis-ping pounced and struck Rockhold with three more punches to prompt referee John McCarthy to step in and stop the fight 3 minutes, 36 seconds into the round.

Rockhold beat Bisping by second-round submission in November 2014 in Australia, but the new champion was quick to repeat, “every fight is different,” during fight week, and he was proven correct.

“He caught me. I didn’t see it happening,” said Rockhold, who had won the belt in December with a dominant fourth-round technical knockout of previously unbeaten champion Chris Weidman. “I took [this] for granted a bit. I should’ve fought my fight.”

Bisping accepted the offer to replace an injured Weidman (neck) on short notice while filming a small movie role in Canada.

He returned to Orange County for some quick training and embraced the underdog’s role.

“People say I don’t deserve it, people say I don’t have punching power. I know how to punch … but check this out, first-round knockout,” Bisping said with his mother and wife among family in the octagon. “This is the greatest moment of my life.”

Rockhold was resigned to hand over praise.

“He’s a tough guy, I’ve got to credit him,” Rockhold said.

In the night’s other title fight, Dominick Cruz dropped Urijah Faber with punches in the second and fourth rounds and relied on his sophisticated fight knowledge to keep the eternal challenger at bay en route to a successful title defense by unanimous decision.

San Diego’s Cruz impressively jabbed and spiced in some effective kicks to defuse the charges by Faber (33-9), who was expected to be more desperate in what became his fourth lost title shot.

The judges awarded Cruz (22-1) victory by scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46, another stroke of vindication for a fighter who missed more than three years with various injuries, but is a religious study of mixed martial arts and out-smarted Faber.

“I feel so good to be able to compete again,” Cruz said. “I had to keep the faith in my instincts, especially against a guy like Faber. I had to believe in myself.”

In the second round, Cruz dropped Faber with a left hand.

Faber missed a right, then a jab and a hook in the fourth before an exchange when Cruz again dropped Faber with a right hand that had been mysteriously absent most of the night. A follow-up Cruz jab was clean and head-rocking.

“He had a perfect fight, so I can’t say anything,” Faber, 37, said, hinting at retirement afterward. “The game plan was to bring the pressure. The surprise was he caught me with some punches, so I couldn’t bring the pressure I wanted. Tonight, I was not on top.”

The victory gave Cruz a 2-1 edge in their trilogy after defending his previous bantamweight belt in 2011. Faber’s victory in the series was in 2007, in the World Extreme Cagefighting circuit.

Also Saturday, the UFC announced the rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will be in Las Vegas on Aug. 20, and in a promotional ad shown in the arena for the July 9 UFC 200 in Las Vegas, former heavyweight champion and current WWE star Brock Lesnar was shown, indicating he’ll fight at the event.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire


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